Set along a quiet road in the charming town of Mere in Wiltshire, this stone house is a stylish conversion of an early 19th-century silk factory. Built circa 1843, stones from the dismantled farm buildings of the neighbouring 16th-century manor house, once owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and the residence of the Duchy’s bailiff, were used in the construction of the house. A carefully conceived conversion in the latter half of the 20th century sympathetically reimagines the spaces with airy proportions and light-filled interiors.
Setting the Scene
Positioned in the heart of Wiltshire, Mere was historically a hub of the wool, linen and later silk trade. Many of the buildings in the town were built to accommodate the bustling trade or house the merchants, manufacturers and workers its success attracted. This house was originally part of Charles Jupe’s factory, where silk was “thrown”, creating threads from the raw fibres that could be spun into cloth. The process of throwing requires long spaces, reflected in the layout of the house and garden. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
Approaching the house along the quiet street reveals a Wolverton stone facade—a wide, double-height entrance hints at the building’s earlier industrial history. Now forming a wide porch with ample, covered parking and convenient storage, the entrance is paved in striking dark and light terracotta tiles arranged in a chequer-board pattern. The original boot scrape is still in place. A flight of stairs behind handsome ironwork leads to the front door.
Entry is to the first floor, which houses the main reception rooms. In the hall, wide reclaimed elm floorboards ground the space. At the front of the plan is the living room. French doors open from this room to the garden, opening one side of the room totally to the outside in the summer. These combine with expansive windows and a glass extension to create a brilliantly bright and airy space.
An arched passage leads from the hallway to the large open-plan kitchen and dining room, wrapping the rear of the plan. The dining room is cosy and painted in dusty tones of clay. Deep-set windows have seating built into their sills; each window has been playfully accented by a bright green and orange trim, drawing the eye out over the beautiful garden views; a back door opens from here to an outdoor terrace. The kitchen was created by the previous owner and here, eye-catching mid-century cabinetry lines three walls, leaving plenty of space for cooking and entertaining.
At the front of the plan is the second living room, or snug, accessed by glazed doors set into a second arch. Painted in the deep, enveloping shade of madder pink, the room is the perfect spot to curl up with a good book. Built-in bookshelves create plenty of storage and are perfect for displaying ornaments.
Four bedrooms and a family bathroom are arranged around a central landing on the first floor. The principal bedroom is set at the rear of the plan and has views of the garden and the tree canopies. Built-in storage has been cleverly designed to maximise space. The en suite has a walk-in shower and a large window that floods the space with natural light. Three bedrooms lie at the front of the plan, and the large family bathroom features an antique clawfoot bathtub.
On the ground floor is an extensive utility room, cellar space and storage area with separate access from the covered parking porch outside. At the back of the garden, there is an annexe studio where the previous owner who was a well-known composer completed a number of his works. It has unexpectedly high ceilings highlighted by exposed beams. Fully insulated and with mains electricity, it would make a perfect home office or guest accommodation.
The Great Outdoors
A substantial mature garden lies to the rear of the plan. A paved terrace runs the length of the house, perfect for entertaining. Beyond, a mature plum tree cast gentle shade over the lawn, while a useful greenhouse is tucked along the whitewashed brick wall. A narrow pond plays host to local ducks and is said to be a possible source of industrial water power for the historic silk mill. A row of quince trees line the the path along the garden wall while a pretty thicket of silver birch trees lies to the rear of the garden. Ornamental bamboo creates a clever delineation, giving privacy and seclusion to the rear annexe.
Out and About
Mere lies on the edges of the Cranborne Chase AONB. The town is nestled in rolling countryside, making it ideal for outdoor pursuits, yet with easy access to many popular spots in the surrounding area, like Frome and Bruton. The town has an excellent array of amenities with several shops and cafes, a post office, and a number of excellent pubs within walking distance.
Tisbury and Shaftesbury are easily reached within 15 minutes by car, playing host to regular Charter and Farmers’ Markets, book and vintage fairs, an annual Food Festival, and the occasional French Market. Babington House is also nearby, and Bruton’s highlights Hauser and Wirth, At the Chapel, Osip, and The Newt in Somerset (20 minutes). The popular Beckford Arms is around 14 minutes by car.
Mere is a 25-minute drive from Frome town centre and its many independent cafes and boutique shops, including Rye Bakery, Projects Frome, Moo and Two, Frome Hardware, Eight Stony Street, and Frome Reclamation Yard. The Frome Independent a monthly market attracting over 80,000 visitors annually. UNESCO World Heritage site, Stonehenge, is a 30-minute drive from the house.
The area is renowned for excellent schooling options, which include Port Regis, Bryanston, Sandroyd, Milton Abbey, Kings Bruton and Hanford.
Transport links are also excellent. A mainline railway service runs direct services from Frome to London Paddington, with a journey time of 86 minutes. Access to the national motorway network is via the A303 (M3), and Bristol Airport is less than 30 miles away.
Council Tax Band: D
Mere’s history goes hand in hand with the textile industry. Its surrounding fields were perfect for grazing sheep and, therefore, has long since had close associations with the wool trade. Even when wool manufacturing moved to the north of the county, Mere looked to the locally grown flax to create linen.
However, developments in milling processes and the emergence of industrial linen factories in Northern Ireland and the North of England once ended the town’s cottage industry.
Around this time, silk production, which, since the 17th century, had largely been focused in Spitalfields, began relocating to areas outside of the capital where labour was much cheaper. In 1814 Charles Jupe, the son of an old Mere linen family established the first silk works in the town.
By 1843 Jupe had three factories- Hinks Mill, Lordsmead Mill and The Grange on Water Street. After Charles’ death in 1883, his son Isaiah took over the silk works at The Grange, but due to competition from the favourable French tariffs, all of Jupe’s factories were closed by 1894. Today this house is one of the only remaining blocks of Jupe’s factory on Water Street.